Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mayor Sam's Strike in Vancouver - A flawed strategy, a lot of bull

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday July 31, 2007

Clueless Sam's strike show


However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

- Winston Churchill

An unnecessary strike. Hundreds of thousands of citizens without services. Thousands of workers without paycheques.

And all because of a mayor who stuck to a flawed strategy to bash unionized workers even as the garbage piled up around his own office.

Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan has made a total mess of a simple labour relations exercise - keep bargaining and remain flexible.

So now it's Sam's Strike.

As Vancouver enters week two of a walkout by inside and outside city workers, it's clear Sullivan both provoked and prolonged the dispute.

Consider the facts: Sullivan forced Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 15 members to vote on a "final" city offer.

Then, despite an overwhelming 89 per cent rejection vote, Sullivan told them to reconsider, that they had to accept his proposed 39-month term to get past the 2010 Olympics, and that there would be no further moves by the city.

And he insulted workers by falsely claiming they wanted to disrupt the Winter Games.

Despite this, CUPE Local 15 booked hotel rooms for negotiations - but the city wouldn't talk.

Faced with no bargaining and no other options, the union struck.

But in a "What, me worry?" response worthy of a Mayor Alfred E. Neuman of MAD Magazine, Sullivan brazenly told the Globe and Mail newspaper that settling the civic strike was not his "top priority" as mayor.

Well, what the hell is?

Maybe Sullivan and his Non-Partisan Association councillors top priority actually could be found at last week's city council meeting.

Unbelievably, NPA councillor Kim Capri actually introduced a notice of motion that all city-run food facilities use only eggs from organic, free-range chickens!

Well cock-a-doodle-do, Chicken Lady - wake up and smell the coffee - if you can over the stench of garbage - and get to work on settling the strike!

Fortunately, other mayors and councillors aren't as clueless as the NPA.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie reached a deal with CUPE workers, a five- year contract that goes well past the 2010 Olympics and the 2009 civic election. No strike.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Surrey Mayor Diane Watts are also expected to announce contracts there shortly. By staying at the table and being flexible, other municipalities are reaching collective agreements without strikes or a disruption of services.

Sullivan told reporters that the city had raised the idea of a five-year contract but the unions had rejected it.

Not true, said Mike Jackson, president of CUPE 1004. "I think he's a weasel," Jackson said of Sullivan.

Perhaps, but when the mayor is more concerned with chickens than a strike by city workers, you know it's all bull.


Anonymous said...

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve D
To: good@cknw.com
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2007 9:37 AM
Subject: Mr Sullivan misjudged the Public ie: The NDP almost won the last provincial election

Mr Sullivan misjudged the Public ie: The NDP almost won the last provincial election ( Popular vote was almost split 50- 50 ) 2) The Public is tiered of being lied to about Olympic costs , RAV , Sea to sky , Convention Centre , Gangs-n-Guns , drugs etc.

steve dockeray

milner bc


Unknown said...

so ... where'd our fearless leader, his royal heinous Uncle Sam, go off to? he wanted to lead this city to glorious global attention and fame, didn't he? well? is this the extent of his leadership savvy? sticking his head so far up his ass, he can no longer pull it out ...?

i think we didn't really need a strike and some free range chickens to tell us the politicians that purport to represent us are clueless, full of bull, and yes, a pack of weasels.

what does our dear uncle same gain from all this?

aside from ... some egg on his face, that is ... ;^)

Anonymous said...

Half the story, Bill. What is Sam's REAL agenda (surely there is one)or is he really lost in Wonderland?

Idiots are costing the citizens services and the workers paycheques. I've been a part of B.C. labour relations for more then 30 years and I've never experienced this level of juvenile incompetence as demostrated by the Employer.

When the Vanouver Sun calls on both sides to act, you know the workers have a significant point.

Anonymous said...

The story this evening regarding picketers pushing some pregnant woman of a sidewalk was fantasy. One guy just had to go get a license for his dog. Get real folks. the cops showed up, checked around and left with no charges in the cards. Sam sure has turned out to be a bit of a dumbo

Budd Campbell said...

Today there is news of settlements with CUPE in Burnaby, Surrey and Delta.

How are anti-union commentators like Alex Tsakumis and Terrance Corcorran going to spin things now?

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,

I couldn't agree with you more! I personally feel that Sam Sullivan is a huge embarrassment. However... from the City's perspective, a 30% increase over 5 years is unreasonable too.

Heck, even 18.5% is pretty damned good considering 16 months ago my CUPE local only managed to get 8% over 4 years from our school board employer shortly after the teachers received their huge pay increase.

I see both sides but I support the civic workers, not because they're CUPE and I'm CUPE, but because the Mayor is such a twit.

Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill:
I am in complete agreement with your assesment of our Mayor. He is a complete failure in his position.

Since assuming office almost 2 years ago, he has not done anything worthwhile.

One would have a difficult time mentioning just one tangible thing he has done for the City. In the meantime, all our pressing problems: homelessness, street pedlars, drug addicts, etc. do not get addressed at all.

And now, with the strike in full swing, our mayor, as you suggested, has made it even worse. A good mayor should have stayed on top of the situation, not let the situation deteriorate to this sorry point in the first place. He should provide leadership in solving the problems and not stay away from it.

I am sorry to learn that our mayor is planning of running again next year. I hope the citizens of Vancouver will let him know in uncertain terms to forget it and toss him out.

He and his council do not deserve to get re-elected. I am sorry Jim Green lost the election. With all his shortcomings, he would have been a much better choice to move the City forward.

Thanks for listening.

Peter Djwa

BC Mary said...

Peter Djwa,

You raise an important point by reminding us how Sam Sullivan won the Mayor's chair for the city of Vancouver.

It must've been clear to everyone that the new guy, James Green, steered the electoral process in such a way that "the real Jim Green" -- the one who would probably have done a much better job of being Mayor -- lost the election.

That's almost classic electioneering in B.C., but that doesn't make it correct. In fact, I've often wondered if certain elections were legal, based as they were upon a calculated ruse designed to confuse or misinform the voters.

Ya can't call that democracy; but can you call it legal?


Anonymous said...

First off Sullivan is a terrible mayor and every time I hear him talk i cringe and sometimes dry heave.

Saying that the entire blame for this mess is not completely on him unless you believe the city should give into what ever the union wants with absolutely no regard for the taxpayer. I suspect many of you think they should get 50% raises every year because they're your union brothers and sisters.

As bad as Sullivan has screwed up, so has the union side. You need 2 sides to have a confrontation.

Making offers with 30% increases at this stage of the negotiations is insulting. Is it really negotiating when you make offers like that? That is grandstanding for your membership. That is not trying to get a deal done. That move shows they're not really interested in bargaining.

The union leader has also made it infinitely more difficult for his members to get a deal by recommending a strike. Just look at all the other cities that have settled. Not one of those areas were on strike.

A strike has pushed both sided into the win or lose corner. Now it will be 10 times harder to get a deal. They both have to save face.

Just like every other mayor has done a better job. Every other union negotiator has done a better job. Tielman has framed this guy as the worlds best union leader, but the fact is he's on the same side of the inept scale as Sullivan.

Bill Tieleman said...

Sorry, I can't agree. The ball is in Vancouver's court for a response and they refuse to negotiate.

The union's position is understandable in the circumstances and in the context of collective bargaining.

The correct management response is to table an offer - likely one with a wage increase below that of Richmond, Delta, Surrey and Burnaby. Then CUPE 15 and 1004 can revise their position and come back again.

But for them to come in with a good faith offer of the same as those municipalities and then see Sam and the negotiators chop it down would be foolish.

Look, we know where this is going to end up - this is pattern bargaining and the template is already set in the other municipalities, give or take some local issues and slight variations.

The only question is how long Vancouver will force its workers to stay on the picket line to get what the other CUPE members got without a strike - it is a punitive position and Vancouver is trying to recoup the wage increase they will have to pay through strike savings, something no one else tried to do.

That will leave poisoned workplace labour relations and bitterness that will reduce productivity.

How pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Sam was doing his thing on TV this evening. Other towns seem able to resolve things without paying for a bunch from the CRD to negotate fror them. as the person for Surrey said, both sides management and union know the cties issues ant worked to gether to solve them. Sam doesn't see to have the smarts. As the outside temperture rises so does the garbage piles. wake up Sam, do somehting or start packing your bags. Some of the numbers people are fliging about are fantasy according to our family member , a inside worker, tells us. dl

Budd Campbell said...

Earlier I had wondered how any union media pundits would be spinning the Vancouver City strike now that other municipalities, including some with fairly conservative councils, had reached settelements without a work stoppage.

Well, now we have stories about picketers assualting a pregnant woman, though no charges were laid, and about unknown persons vandalizing Parks vehicles. So I guess that's the answer to my query.

Budd Campbell said...

Oops. Failed to proof read. In the previous post I meant to say "anti-union pundits", not "union pundits"!

Anonymous said...


Excellent post!!! The City of Vancouver and Mayor Sullivan need to get off their butts and solve this issue. I bet you that if both sides spent as much time negotiating as they do talking, then a deal would have been in place by now. Hopefully, the NPA will be defeated next year


I would be remise if I didn't point out that in your post Richmond's deal would see no labour disputes during the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2009 Civic Election.

Well - There will be a civic election in 2008 + 2011 not in 2009. There is, however, a Provincial election in 2009. I believe Richmond's deal would see labour peace through the Olympics and the 2011 Civic Election.


Steve Forseth
Williams Lake, BC

Anonymous said...

I see this 30% thrown around like it is gospel. The number is taken out of context from a news release by the City entitled "City finds union proposal of 30% increase completely unacceptable"

URL: http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/NewsReleases2007/NRcupe15July28.htm

The actual quote says "the union tabled a package that included a 30% increase in wages and benefits over a five year term".

A quote from CUPE 15 states "Using the contract ratified in Richmond as a starting point, CUPE 15 tabled a wage increase of 21 percent over 5 years that they clearly stated was negotiable."

URL: http://www.fairnessforcivicworkers.ca/www/news/Talks_with_CUPE_15_b

I am assuming with compounding it goes up to 23% as quoted here.

What nobody has mentioned is the City would like to post all positions externally (newspaper etc) and internally at the same time. They would like the external people the ability to negotiate their pay and vacation. They also do not want to allow internal people the same ability.

Some of you may say, so what. If the City has someone they want to fill a position, then they can just appoint them and forgo the whole posting process. You would be wrong in that assumption. This is a union shop. All jobs, longer six months, temporary or otherwise, must be posted. That means every job in the City will be available to the public. It means the City no longer hires from within first. They must really like their employees.

So your still saying so what. The City likes to play the temp game. Someone could hold a position for years and only be a temp in that position. The permanent person that actually "owns" the job is in another temp position and there is someone else temporarily holding the other temps permanent position. Let's say the highest temp gets a new permanent job. You may think the temp holding his old job for that last 4 years would get it. You would be wrong. The position must be posted as it is now a permanent opening and the one holding the position is a temp. That 4 year temp will now have to interview for his own job. Any City employee can apply for it and, if the City has its way, anyone in the world. How is that for “a thanks for your YEARS of hard work.”

Now I have heard many radio and read many blog comments like, go get a better job you uneducated loser. Or, maybe you should have gone to school. I take exception to this. I guess most people don't realize all the: (sewer, water, electrical, transportation and streets) designers, drafts people, computer networking, (building, gas, plumbing, and electrical) inspectors, construction surveyors (and assistants), computer programmers, some business and system analysts, licensed fabricators, licensed welders, licensed mechanics, licensed carpenters, licensed electricians, licensed plumbers, truck drivers with airbrake certification (aka garbage man) and MANY more are all union jobs. These jobs require anywhere from a few weeks of training, years of apprenticeship, a diploma, degree or all the way up to a masters degree.